Will sports betting encourage addiction? You can bet on it

Ben Affleck, the movie star and avid gamer struggling with alcohol addiction, is one of the most visible players in sports gambling. He is the focus of a TV advertisement for the mobile betting app WynnBET. “We all want to win,” says Affleck. “Let’s win together!”

Aaron Paul, the actor who played just an addict on “Breaking Bad” and turned himself off harsh drug use after watching his girlfriend get consumed with addiction, is a spokesperson for Bet365, a sports betting app. It has more than 63 million users worldwide and offers newbies $ 500 credit to join. “You have to ask yourself why I am not a member of the most popular sports betting company in the world?” Asks Paul in an ad.

Those who scroll through these two apps are offered sports betting legs – betting on money lines, touchdowns, parlays, fight results, total hits, and other outcomes. At the bottom of the screen is this notice: “If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and needs help, call 1-800 GAMBLER.”

You call me old-fashioned, but with sports betting enjoying pandemic expansion, shouldn’t we worry more about the possibility of a surge in gambling disruption? And isn’t it terrifying that people who should know better are enthusiastic about this?

As a reminder, for most gamblers, betting is recreation. Based on historical data, only about 1% of adults in the United States have a serious problem such as: B. Gambling addiction. About 2 to 3% of adults have less serious problems; they are not addicts, but gambling causes them financial and social misery. Most people bet for fun.

The problem is that these small percentages represent 6 to 8 million people. And most of the academic and clinical studies of gambling disorder in the United States were conducted when legal sports gambling was restricted to Nevada and back room betting with bookmakers was not digital. The boom in sports betting that began three years ago after the US Supreme Court overturned Nevada’s monopoly, along with the accessibility of mobile devices and apps, mean that a significantly larger and younger proportion of Americans are now at risk. It will take researchers some time to keep track of the current sports betting world and the problems that individuals and communities may encounter.

“We have conducted a massive cultural experiment in gambling and are bringing gambling to America in ways unprecedented in the world,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, a research and advocacy group. “Nobody, at least from an addiction perspective, has seen the effects on problem gambling.”

“Groups like ours are being asked to investigate the potential negative effects of new tools and technologies without access to private companies’ internal data and product information,” he added, citing regulatory failures. “State gaming commissions are almost prisoners of the industry. They submit to the industry and do not understand some of the new technologies. “

When mainstream companies took over the gambling business decades ago, they were more disciplined than their organized crime predecessors in analyzing which forms of betting were most profitable and appealing. Slot machines quickly supplanted table games in the center of casino floors. The abundance of data such machines could collect on what players liked helped casinos make their games more lucrative and potentially more addicting. Apps and other digital gambling offerings are even more data-centric than slot machines and can be optimized to take advantage of features that make gambling compulsive, such as:

Irish gambling company Flutter Entertainment doubled its sales last year thanks to many of its brands, but most notably FanDuel, one of the most popular sports betting apps in the U.S. Flutter also bought Sky Bet from Rupert Murdoch’s media company last year, now the most popular gambling company. UK app

The New York Times recently reported that Sky Bet used its app’s data profiling software to investigate a compulsive gambler’s betting history and favorite sports with such precision that it could essentially haunt him and become addicted – even if he tried to quit. “They took his addiction and converted it into code,” an attorney representing the player told the Times. Sky Bet told the Times that it did not target vulnerable players and that it “took the responsibility for safe gambling incredibly seriously”.

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